January 31, 2009

My cooking chops

I’m normal. Favourite word. Bar none. Ever.
Not normal as in boring, flat, suburban. I’m normal - In the medical sense. It's a good thing.

Hello again.

I feel kind of slow-roasted. That feeling where I've slowed down (some of that is mental), eased back, tenderized myself, allowed myself to caramelize and brought out the sweetness...slow roasted the best in myself.

I've got myself back. I've held it together and now look back at my adventure through chemo and radiation (which, I must admit, is not so much like being slow roasted, as it is like being zapped in a microwave)...and realize how shit scary it was.

So now when they check me out and get bored and start talking about the disaster to their stock portfolio, I grin and go along for the ride...I'm so boring, I'm normal! Best word in the English language.

So life reasserts itself. I work. I run again. I eat. And I talk about food a lot. Hence I run.
Unless the windchill is crushing us senseless. Winter is professional this year. Snow and bitter cold. Our mothers have both had to have professionals come and clear ice and snow from their rooftops. And Steve is intently figuring out how to spend the winters in a place where windchill is a problem only in the beer fridge.

I have been finding my cooking chops again.

At the back of the freezer the other day I excavated a lamb leg. It was clearly on the edge of extinction. And I thought about a recipe I saw Jamie Oliver do on "Jamie at Home" that cooked the lamb (it was a shoulder in that case) for four hours – and it looked so incredible when it came out, I needed a napkin.

Now in the case of the lamb leg in my freezer, it wasn’t destined to inspire poetry. It looked like something prehistoric found by archeologists in the Andes. I was dealing with a sorry looking piece of meat – what else could I do but cook the hell out of it? And then perhaps it too would regain a sense of normality or at least at the risk of inspiring poetry - fulfill its destiny.

I had to try and remember the recipe – because I just haven’t the guts to spend the 40 bucks on Jamie's book yet, but I will. What I did have was the four hours it takes to bake it in the oven…I thought.

That day Steve had kindly taken to cleaning our oven – which we consider our civic duty to our local fire department. The oven is small and our organic chickens we roast in there weekly are particularly adept at spitting all over it until there’s more smoke than air in the apartment. So, I came up with this recipe at 5pm and Steve stepped up his rinsing and wiping…which was at 5:30pm…We ate...late.

However, a couple of hours of bad Saturday night television later (and if you grew up in the 70s, the lamb would have been done in the middle of Love Boat and before Fantasy Island yuk) when it came out of the oven, it was everything I could do not to eat it with my hands right off the bone, probably like one of those prehistoric frozen beings found in the Andes…it was a glorious end for a piece of meat that was otherwise doomed to freezer burn.

So here goes a sort-of slow-roasted lamb rescue. Adapted from the James...

1 lamb leg or shoulder (mine was about 2lbs bone in)

1 bunch fresh rosemary

1 head of garlic

olive oil

crunchy salt

freshly-ground pepper

The key here is to get the oven as hot as you can to start. So, 500 degrees F.

While that’s heating up, score the fat on the roast into a diamond pattern (run your knife through diagonally in one direction and then turn it and run your knife in the opposite direction).

Pour some olive oil in the bottom of a roasting pan and then pile a layer of fresh rosemary– I used what I had on the counter that had been living its last glory days.

Throw half to ¾ of the garlic cloves unpeeled on the bottom of the pan.

Place the roast, fat side up, on the rosemary and garlic.

Pour olive oil on the roast and rub it into the crevices of the fat and meat.

Sprinkle the roast with the salt and pepper.

Top with the remaining rosemary and garlic bulbs.

Wrap the whole thing tightly in tin foil…I used a couple of layers to make sure it was sealed.

Place in the middle of the oven.

Turn the heat down to 325 degrees F.

Leave for four hours.

Now when it comes out you’ll be able to pull the meat off the bone with a fork. I’m not kidding. It’s just beautiful.

Pull the meat off and set aside on a platter that you can keep warm.

Remove the rosemary spears and discard. Take out the garlic and set aside.

Pour off the fat from the roasting pan, all but one tablespoon. Don’t lose any of the good brown bits that are chock full of flavour. Squeeze the garlic from the garlic bulbs and mash them into the pan.

Put the roasting pan on the stove, if you can, and add 1 tbsp of flour. Stir the flour and oil together to thicken – let cook a little to lose the flour flavour, then add 1 cup of chicken stock. Stir with a wooden spoon and let it boil for about five minutes or so. Add a bunch of fresh mint that you’ve finely chopped (leaves only) and about 2 tbsp of red wine vinegar. Bring back to a boil briefly.

When ready to serve you can pour it directly over your platter, or place in a warm jug and let people help themselves. Bringing lamb back from oblivion to its normal destiny...Good to be back...Enjoy.


Julie said...

I was just thinking of you. I'm so glad to see you're posting again, and to hear that all is boringly normal with you, medically speaking.

The lamb sounds delicious. Totally worth waiting four hours.

Also, I wish I could get my husband to clean our oven! Unfortunately, no one in our house seems interested in doing it.

Anonymous said...

Mmmmmmmm now that sounds delish!!!

Gotta give props to the recently departed Ricardo Montalban and comment on your Fantasy Island dig… really Nic… Mr Roarke rocked in his crisp white suit, kicking butt revealing the true cost of living out your fantasy, all on a sumptuous pacific island. No windchill factor there!

ps… “normal” is not boring. “fine” is boring.
pps... always a good read my friend!!!!!

Kathleen said...

Hey Nic sounds sumptuous and hope you enjoyed it with a robust red.. perhaps something from Argentina or Chile. Will be checking in to see what else you are creating in the culinary and the literary departments. Your somewhat normal friend!

Kathleen said...

Hey Nic sounds sumptuous and hope you enjoyed it with a robust red.. perhaps something from Argentina or Chile. Will be checking in to see what else you are creating in the culinary and the literary departments. Your somewhat normal friend!